When your baby is born and admitted into special care, most parents are told the same. To assume that your baby will not be coming home until its due date. Fair enough, makes sense, baby should still be inside the womb, so completely understandable that you won't take your baby home until around then.
Dealing with "outsiders", neighbours, friends even some family can be very hard when your baby is on the unit. Unless you have been on a special care baby unit, it is very difficult to understand what it is like. And most people have never seen a premature baby, and can't comprehend what they look like, how they behave and what treatment they need.
Special care is another world, and another language. Things you take for granted with a term baby, the ability to suck, to digest food, to cope with temperature changes, just have not developed, and all these things take time.
For me the most frustrating questions was "when can you bring your baby home?" And when I would say "around the 7th August, Joseph's due date" people would look horrified, especially in mid May! "How will you cope?". Helpful? The second most annoying questions was "what weight is he to be before he can come home?" If only it was as simple as hitting a magic weight. Joseph was 4lb 6oz when he came home. A baby needs to be well, and weight is only one indicator of wellness.
It's only now that I can appreciate how hard the time in special care was for us as a family. I felt guilty feeling bad about it, afterall it was only 10 weeks. Many people spend a lot longer on units than we did. But this time last year we still had almost a month to go, and Joseph's birthday seems an awful long time ago.
And, the unspoken part of the answer to this question, "when will you bring your baby home?" is that some babies, very sadly and tragically, do not come home with their families. And we remember those who have lost their fight, and are currently fighting.
For Ruth, her husband, and her triplets, Reuben, Henry and Isla 8 weeks old. Isla is currently fighting hard against NEC, you are in our prayers little girl.